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Building Red America: The New Conservative Coalition and the Drive For Permanent Power Hardcover – August 28, 2006

2.7 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
"The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt
This subtle yet accessible book gives the key to understanding the miracle of human cooperation, as well as the curse of our eternal divisions and conflicts. Learn more | See related books
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this comprehensive and insightful book, Edsall shows just how much angrier Democrats could be—not least of all at themselves—if only they knew the half of what was going on. A senior political reporter for the Washington Post, he knows the capitol's ins and outs as well as anyone, without the bedfellowism of some other Washington journalists. The book goes a long way to explain why Bush, who ran in 2000 as a "uniter, not a divider," proceeded with an aggressively right-wing strategy once in power. Beginning with the revelation to conservative thinkers in 2000 that the "center of the electorate had collapsed," Edsall assiduously details every aspect of their successful push to galvanize their base and emasculate their opponents. "Without pressure to accommodate the center," he adds, "Republicans in the majority have been, with little cost, relatively unresponsive to criticism." Hence, the administration managed to draw both working-class evangelicals (using classic "wedge issues" like race and outrage over gay rights and abortion) and wealthy K Street lobbyists with little consequence. But he also shows that the Democrats lack salable strategies and have lost "a decisive majority of white voters." With depth and journalistic clarity, Edsall illustrates exactly why, more than ever, Democrats need their own Karl Rove. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Edsall has been reporting the nuts and guts of American politics for decades now, and there is no more reliable guide to infrastructural facts." -- Todd Gitlin
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Copyright 2006 edition (August 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465018157
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465018154
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,096,677 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has been seriously misrepresented in the press (a stupid review by George Will and a misleading review on Amazon). It is a very serious work of scholarship with a good deal of insight into the problems of the Democratic party. Edsall characterises the Democratic party as (a) an uneasy and unstable alliance of minorities and the poor, who have serious economic issues on the one hand, and liberal, affluent elites with interests in new age values and individual liberation on the other. He charges that Democrats have no coherent economic policy to protect marginal groups in the age of globalization, no coherent policy for rectifying government inefficiency and stifling bureaucracy, and no credibility in dealing with military affairs in particular, and foreign affairs in general. Liberal values, he argues, have led to the election of Republican mayors and governors, as for instance, noting that Dinkins in New York was so ineffective that he was followed by four successive Republican mayors. Democrats, moreover, are in bed with the most venal of feeders at the public trough, organized unions in education (AFT and NEA), whose bread and butter middle class economic issues prevent Democrats from espousing choice programs that would benefit the less well off.

This book is a fine introduction to political demography and recent electoral and social history in the United States, and deserves to be entertained by serious students of politics, not the hacks that have reviewed it so far.
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Format: Hardcover
Edsall sees that the Republican party has increasingly become a coalition of the dominant (including ascending religious denominations), while the Democrats have become largely an alliance of the socially and economically dominated (including declining religious denominations) and those who identify with them.

Despite Watergate and Vietnam, Republicans have controlled the White House for 20 of the next 28 years, the Senate for 18 of the next 26, and the House for 12 of the next 26. With American businesses firmly in its corner, the Republicans have substantial business acumen (eg. the "K Street Project" and its ability to mobilize all lobbyists to support the entire leadership program), added credibility in debates over taxes and spending, and strong financial backing. Meanwhile, Democrats have become a bifurcated party, with a wide gulf separating the liberal agenda of their leadership elite and the pressing material needs of the party's disadvantaged. To reverse the rightward trend of the electorate, Edsall believes Democrats will have to address gun activists tired of having to get a license, government trying to force integration and affirmative action down people's throats, stop preaching that men and women are the same (men work more hours), increasingly taking people's money, tolerating wrong answers from the IRS and long MVD lines, a never-ending flood of illegals from Mexico, vagrants in the library, etc.

A large number of white males have moved from the Democratic to the Republican party over the issues of affirmative action and equal rights for women (increased job pressures), and busing, and perceived weakness on crime, and welfare - in '04 Kerry lost white voters overall in the $30,000-$75,000 income range by 22 points.
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Format: Hardcover
American political thought and the policies adopted by the Republicans and Democrats have always been in a constant state of change, with each of the two parties scrambling to adapt to an ever- changing world with new concerns and new opportunities. In different decades, Democrats had the upper hand and were perceived as being in step with a large percentage of voters. This trend continued through much of the 1960's and 1970's and Democrats enjoyed either control of the White House or, at least, control of the Senate and House of Representatives.

But things began to change in the 1980's when voters- many of them lifetime supporters of the Democratic Party- began to switch to the Republican camp. How this happened, and what Republicans did to make it happen, are the main subjects of this book. It breaks down, piece by piece, the Republican strategy that began in the 1980's and continues today. It is a multi- faceted strategy that capitalizes on the general support of big business; the importance of religion to many American families; the economic independence and classical economic approach favored by a growing number of Americans; and the general backlash of many voters against what they perceive as an unfair and/or immoral advantage given to certain groups based on minority or "oppressed" status.

Author Thomas Edsall writes this book in an informative way and he refrains from making judgments or criticizing the strategies used by Republicans. All he wants to do is point out what his research (and the research of others) has confirmed and offer a few talking points on what Democrats can do to win back some of its disgruntled voters. This lack of opinion will suit some readers just fine, but it will irritate others who prefer a more scrutinizing approach.
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Format: Paperback
Edsall basically restates what's already been said about the southern strategy,the problems of the Democratic Party, and way the Joe Trippi revolutionized fundraising in Howard Dean's campaign.

Considering that the book was written around the time of a Democratic win, while Dean was chair. Edsall could have attempted to analyze the effectiveness of the 50-state strategy, however, he does not.

In addition to restating many well-established arguments, Edsall mixes campaigns stereotypes with research to form overstated analysis. For example, Edsall brings up data to support the claim that a one party is more likely to watch certain kinds of TV shows. These seem closer to stereotypes perpetuated by campaigns than reliable data: e.g. this drives a volvo--you all know what they means.

While there, is little to suggest that Edsalls research is dishonest, the analysis could be better. Edsall could have done a better job with analyzing data, particular those involving demographics and party affiliations. More importantly, Edsall could have found a way to come up with something original, whether its completely orginial, or a new way to look at say the southern strategy. As it stands there is very little in this book that is not already well-established.
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